Fantasy Island

I was recently amused at birders in Cork, particularly the finder of a recent Grey Cheeked Thrush, ranting about rarities being hounded by birders/photographers.

There was talk on the internet along the usual lines.

"I'll suppress birds in future."

"We need to police ourselves."

"We should have a quiet word with the perpetrators."

Now, I'm sure there's plenty out there who will say this is sensible, and if it was done universally and equally I would agree. 

However, in reality, when guys like this complain about birders hounding birds what they mean is, "birders they don't know hounding birds" in their opinion. It's birding NIMBYism.

More than that, it seems to be targeted at young birders on this occasion. Scold the bold boys. An easy target, right? We've seen that before haven't we?

How do we know this is NIMBYism?

We know this because there is a long history to look back on.

Would the grey cheeked thrush finder have spoken up when his galley head mate was stomping up the lane in 2005 at Ballymacrown to "walk the Radde's warbler back towards the birders"?

Would he have spoken up when we all, ALL OF US, were walking into lissagriffin for Buff Bellied Pipits? Those birds were made to fly all the live long day.

Where was the IRBC member wanting to have a "quiet word" (who's name incidentally has only ever gone with the word quiet when being told to BE quiet) when everyone went in after the Paddyfield warbler on loop in the last half hour of light? Or in after the Blyth's Warbler on Three Castles? He was right there in the middle of them.

It is astounding that a grown individual, who dropped to the ground, kicking and crying like a toddler when he missed a Fea's Petrel in Kerry, would dictate to anyone on behavior. 

Where was the outrage when a south dub was caught tramping around on a Nightjar breeding site in Wexford? It was silent as the grave.

No. I'm afraid there really is no speaking up when it comes to their own behavior or those in the clique.

In fact, anytime some of us HAVE "named and shamed" (the kilbaha Canada warbler for example) we are called disruptive. Troublemakers.

Look, none of us are whiter than white, not a single one of us. Whether it comes to bird ID, or finding rarities, or behavior at twitches, we've all put a foot wrong, and some out there do so habitually, safe in the knowledge that they'll not be challenged by their buddies. 

However, if you're going to snipe about others, be prepared for some counter sniping. Be prepared for some challenge. Everyone has lived in a glass house sometime and there are lots of stones lying around.

So suppress your birds and see how that works out for you. Wear a high-vis at twitches and police all the live long day. 

You want to speak out? You want to challenge behavior? Go for it. I've had great fun doing it over the years, but before you get on that high horse and ride into battle, play a little game.

Ask yourself if you would post that rant, or have that quiet word if it was one of the high up "gurus" pushing a bird (and they have) ? And if the answer is "No", as we all know it would be, well you f*ck.


  1. Owen, good to see that you are still trying to win friends and influence people, also good to see nothing changes in the Irish birding scene!
    I well remember a certain twitch in the plantation on the old head, another Grey Cheeked . Myself and a few others had the temerity to go into the plantation , where the bird had been seen, having had only a brief flash of the bird we realised our mistake and backed out to leave the bird alone in the hope that it would show itself . At this stage a certain Deity of Irish birding was complaining that Skinny had trashed the plantation and should not have gone in. I wandered away down the road for a while and on coming back, lo and behold, this god of gods was thrashing the plantation with a cohort of his sycophants. Double Standards? Of course not.

    1. Another good example, and one that I was indeed thinking of.

      Like Nixon, it's not illegal if the president does it. ;)


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